I have just had a little read of a few of my old Blog posts from a few years ago. I had one that was really popular called ‘Can I speak to Mr. Smith please?’ In this post I talked about a difficult time when I had been looking for work and I had started training for a Telephone fundraising company. I talked about my distaste for the work and how intrusive it seemed during my one day of training. I vowed to never return. I swore I would never let myself scare people into parting with their cash even if it was for charity.
6 Months after this, I broke my promise.
After struggling with a number of low paid positions that suited my out of work performer lifestyle (3-4 hours a day/Evenings/No manual labor) I eventually threw up my arms and admitted that I was not going to survive in the big city selling interval ice-creams and programs.
I made the phone call I had not wanted to make.
“Hi Sue, It’s Martin Joseph here. I previously worked for you…for a day… Unfortunately after my first day of training, which I loved by the way, I was offered a once in a lifetime role that I could not turn down and had to leave the country straight away” – This much of the lie I could remember however any further details I had previously given were a blur. I hoped that perhaps she would also not remember.
“Oh Martin, How wonderful to hear from you” she bellowed “I actually thought of you the other day and how great you had been in your training session, How was it?”
“Oh that’s very sweet of you to say and yeah it was erm… great.” I tried to remain as vague as possible “ how are you, sue?”
“Oh darling I’m amazing, so what can I do for such a big star as yourself?”
“Well Sue, I’m actually looking for some work at the minute, and after having such an amazing time with you guys [LIE] last time, I thought it would be amazing if I could come back and join the team [LIE].”
“Oh how fantastic, but are you sure? I didn’t think we would be seeing you again. But of course”
“Thanks Sue, and yeah I think its important to keep my feet on the ground in between gigs” I had started to realize that perhaps I had embellished a little thinking I was never to return.
“Okidoke, well come on down on Monday, you will need to do your three training days and then you will be all set. Gosh, a real Hollywood movie star working with us here at the centre”
As I hung up the phone I had a wave of nausea and guilt. Not only had I once again signed my sole to the devil but also I definitely needed to work on my excuses.
Monday came around faster than you can say Hollywood Movie Star. I was adamant I must stick at this position even if it did not fit with my moral code. I needed the money and like Belle de Jour I would take what I had to in order to get paid. Day one flew by, as it was essentially a carbon copy of my previous training day. A brief talk about legal obligations of a charity call-centre worker, then a motivational speech about how we were all saving lives by making calls and ended with a little role-play.
SIDE NOTE: I have no issue with people who raise money for charity. In fact I think it is necessary to raise money and support for those who can’t do it themselves. I just take issue with intrusive calls into people’s homes with numbers collected from databases from when you maybe sent a text as a one off donation. I also find it a little tough to swallow that the people in that room were patting themselves on the back about fighting the good fight and helping people, when they are all taking a pretty hefty wage out of the whole thing. The question about the morality of paid positions when collecting was continually met with the same response; “Wages are paid from the pre-allocated fund raising budget.” This was what we were to tell people on the phone if they asked. I hate this phrase.
Day two flew by as we were on the Phones. It turned out that I was a natural however given that in my training group of around 10 I was one of the only one’s who could string a sentence together, it was not to surprising. The system works by you staring at your screen continually in 4-8 hour blocks. Your headset is either connected or dialing someone on a continuous loop. There isn’t time to talk to your neighbor or think your own thoughts. The words are written in front of you. You have ‘Three Asks’ This means that you start requesting the largest amount of money and depending on rejection you will slowly step down in price filling in heart breaking details of poverty or suffering in-between. You have a button for every response. Every donation you managed to acquire you get a smiley face on the white board, like a child.
I arrived back into the training room on day three early. I looked up at the board next to my name and saw a row of circles with cheeky grins. They were taunting me. I didn’t feel good about this. I wasn’t getting the buzz that others were. I didn’t want to harass anyone at 9AM but I was about to.
CALL 1: “Hi James, My Names Martin and I’m Calling on Behalf of The National Blog For Pandas/Children/Elderly People and Gnomes to thank-you for your recent donation…” I was cut off. “Fuck You!!” James Screamed as the line went dead.
CALL 2: “Hi Angela, My Names Martin and I’m Calling on Behalf of The National Blog For Pandas/Children/Elderly People and Gnomes to thank-you for your recent donation and to tell you all about the great work you have helped us complete, have you got time for a quick chat?” I said in my friendliest morning voice. “I’m so sorry, I have just got home, I have been in hospital over night” I already felt guilty as I pressed the appropriate response button. “While I appreciate that, the charity only budgets for one call per person and making a second call would waste more of our valuable funds” I wanted the ground to swallow me up. “But I have literally walked through the door, I would love to talk to you guys but I need to just relax today” so I responded “every year more than 1000 baby Gnomes and Bloggers are harmed during the deforestation of….” The line was cut off again and I didn’t blame her.
CALL 3: “Hi Derrick, My Names Martin and I’m Calling on Behalf of The National Blog For Pandas/Children/Elderly….” Derrick was an old man I could tell. I imagined he lived at home alone and was thrilled to have someone to talk to. I went through every stage of the call. From the responses I received from him I could tell he had little to no understanding of the process. After a twenty-minute call we were down to my final offer, the text donation. X amount of money would be added to his phone bill each month and sent to the charity. I was sure that Derrick was probably still operating a Nokia 3210 and was also unaware of the deal he was making fully. By this point my fat faced trainer was standing over my screen tapping her pen on different options. She had gone red with excitement and was brandishing her other hand as a thumbs up like an advert for candy bars in the sixties. I took down his details and said goodbye to him, he still seemed bemused by the whole thing. I looked at my screen and saw the confirmation button that would seal his fate. I instead pressed cancel and stepped away from my computer.
There was no way I was taking this guys money even if he had agreed. Through the cleverly worded script I manipulated someone into giving and it was all above board because I followed the legal requirements and have a pass on standard ethics as it’s on behalf of the needy. I walked to the door and my trainer stopped me. I turned to her and simply said, “I’m sorry Sue, this does not make me feel like a good person”
FINAL NOTE: I felt a little guilty just on the off chance that Derrick had wished to donate after all. I set up my own text donation soon after in his honor, those lucky Gnomes.